New York London Paris Munich
A note on some new songs I heard this weekend:
Phixx – Wild Boys: It really is last-chance saloon stuff for these guys, I quite liked the naffness of Love Revolution, which I think barely made the top ten. Now, you can’t really go wrong when you cover Duran Duran, which very little deviation fron the original bar a teeny bit of scratching and each of them singing in turns. I predict they will go top three with this one! Haven’t seen the video, but I’d be very surprised if it is any different from the original. Simon et al will be happy with royalties.
Seether feat Amy Lee – Broken Wings: The enduring legacy of grunge it would seem is the continued use of the Vedder/Cornell gravel ‘laying on the emotion with a trowel’ voice. And, employing the first lady of metal will mean that this is a hit, even though it sounds like every other gravel voiced post-grunge song ever (read as, I kinda like it)
GIRLS ALOUD – “The Show”
There’s an MP3 of this floating around taken from the radio with Chris Moyles talking over it. You should find it EVEN DESPITE the Chris Moyles element because this is a magnificent single. It’s the pinnacle of pop’s electro-flirtation and the next natural step, taking its cue from Freeez’ “I.O.U.”, Hi-NRG, The Flirts, Bronski Beat, blah blah, you get the picture, big joyful robodisco, so nice to have it back.
(The lyrics are perfect evocative nonsense as usual. After 5 listens I’m still not sure what “The Show” is – what show? whose show? Maybe this is their “The Reflex” – total pop-dominating confidence manifested as ambiguity.)
The great thing about GA is how lovingly it’s all done. There’s something about the group that seems to have really caught the songwriters’ and stylists’ imagination – so that they save their best stuff for this rag-tag reality TV mob. Girls Aloud could so easily have played it wrong – gone for the Spicey ‘we’ gang angle; instead they seem happy to be a vehicle for the records and so even though there’s always something ‘Girls Aloud-y’ about the songs it’s never self-conscious. With the Sugababes (and I love the Sugababes) you get the feeling there’s a definite brief given to songwriters – “moody, a bit urban”; same with Kylie and Rachel Stevens and all the rest of them. But with Girls Aloud the brief is just “OK, no fannying about, just modern Rolls-Royce pop please”. And I love it.
Avril Lavigne: Under My Skin
Avril returns with a patchy kind of album, a busy mid ’90′s indie rock affair. The songs are a little difficult to remember, perhaps they should have been allowed to breathe and develop at a gentler pace (Rockist Bible 2001). At the worst of times she comes across as Alanis’s mini-me, wallowing far too much in teen angst and meeting the wrong guy (over and over), you wish she’d through in something a little more joyful, there’s no Sk8er Boi’s here. It’s not all disappointing, the best songs are the single “Don’t Tell Me”, “How Does it Feel” and “My Happy Ending”, which all have an anthemic feel that I like, and allow Avril to go through all her vocal styles.
The album tails off quite badly, from one mangled powerchord gloomfest to another, the last song proper is quite a nice ballad about loss and is only the real departure from a pre-occupation with ‘relationships’, and there is a UK bonus track “I always get what I want”, a laboured attempt at punk attitude, which really could have been left off. Overall, I want to like this more, “Let Go” seems a much more accomplished album in comparison.
Sacking the band and going blue grass would probably be a good career move at this point, or you know just trying to write some happier songs with sing along choruses. I?d really like Avril to cover Alice Cooper’s “How You Gonna See Me Now”, it would surely rock, or you know sit Avril down and play her some Journey, Cheap Trick and Heart.
amazon’s algorithm for working out yr top 105 “recommended” lps (or books or whatever) is a totally hypnotic mystery to me – and i can’t tell you anything formal abt how it makes its choices (well actually i do have two tentative general conclusions: i think if you rate something you own as a “3″ it leaves everything as is; and if you give “5″ to more than two LPs by the same person you have to announce yrself “not interested” in everything else by them to ensure they don’t clog up the entire first 20 entries, pretty much)
also, and more oddly, i can tell you this: if (despite yr solid phalanx of 20th century modernist composition) (which may actually depend on something you BOUGHT via amazon) you then out of old-skool loyalty give good marks to a restrained amt of canonic punk/hardcore you will drive stuff by ligeti (specifically) right down from the top to the lower edge of yr hundred, but if you THEN enter high-ish marks for basement jaxx wiley and dizzee rascal, yr punky hardcore will straight away be shunted down into the late 20s mostly, and ligeti will be dragged RIGHT BACK up into the top 15!!
plus also i did have lots of herbie hancock in there but that has now all vanished!! grimists why ru herbie hataz!!?
RIAA v Nielsen FITE!
A companion to the ingenuous “oo downloads might be good for us” piece linked by Tom below, is an article from Kensei News earlier this month.
According to Soundscan, the service that Nielsen runs to measure actual Point of Sale purchases, there has been a 10% increase in music sales since last year (US stats). This seems to contradict RIAA president Cary Sherman’s “7% decrease in revenue since last year”!
The discrepancy arises from the RIAA only measuring SHIPPED units, not SOLD units. File sharing, rather than being the scapegoat for losses in revenue, is actually being “blamed” for fewer returns. Fewer returns?! Hallelujah! The HOLY GRAIL of consumer distribution. Lower percentage returns = more profitable product. Thank you file sharing! Or whatever the hell is causing all this.
Music industry recovering: biz gropes for explanation – “I have a theory that there is something about these services such as iTunes and Napster which is sparking an interest in music which is leading to increase physical sales.” – so you’re saying that downloads encourage people to “get excited about music again” and buy records? Oh, wait, not just any downloads of course – only the legal ones!
Since mentioning my Tarkus mural in the neverending Kompakt thread on ILM, my inbox has been flooded with inquiries as to how I obtained such a thing. For the sake of convenience, I’ll respond here.
My wife and I were approached by the staff of Mutant House, a failed “home makeover” program that was beat to the punch by the Discovery Channel’s Monster House. (Gist: A crew of people come over to give your house an off-the-wall theme, usually involving bizarre constructions.) The show needed willing homeowners for their pilot episode, and we were game — as long as they agreed to make our house “Tarkus house” rather than something obvious like “Vegas house” or “Retro-Future house.”
The pilot failed, but the makeover was a success. The game room now features a wall-size mural that recreates the cover of ELP’s Tarkus; matching multi-color carpeting maintains a sense of flow. We have a fleet of RC tarkuses that retrieve the paper or carry our drinks. A wax figure of Keith Emerson now sits at our baby grand; at the push of a button, he and the piano twirl in mid-air (Californa Jam style). Our doorbell chime now resembles that “off to battle” Moog bit from “Tarkus Medley.” And, in keeping with the ELP theme, a 20-foot manticore guards our back yard. (As a footnote, word of our remodeling reached as far as Oslo. A gentleman from there wanted to purchase our house for a large sum and was willing to uproot himself and his family.)
One of the things I can say about Justus Köhncke’s remix of Wolfgang Voigt’s “Hot Love” is that it is funnier than our house. The original, presumably named after the T. Rex song of the same name, was a semi-pleasant shuffle-stomp of a track. Köhncke adds jubilant vocals (credited to Meloboy, but they sure sound like Köhncke) to make it a full-blown cover, as well as some burping children’s program keyboards. That’s all it took to transform a relatively benign Voigt production into something sprightly and noxious.
A Million Love Songs – the ‘all-star MP3 superblog’. Oooh!
(I have signed up to ‘contribute’, expect tat.)
ALSO! Bang and Burn – the hits just keep on coming.
ALSO ALSO! Radio 1 just did a DREADFUL Colin and Edith parody of Eamon/Frankee a la Shirehorses (whose CDs go for big money on eBay, no honest!) during which they sang the word “penis”. What fresh nightmare of the permissive society is this??
MIDI MAXI AND EFTI – “Bad Bad Boys” (aka PopNose13)
So Mark S messaged me – “Have you ever heard of Midi Maxi And Efti?”. I had not. He told me he hadn’t either – except he dimly remembered Frank Kogan raving about them. I was intrigued. Partly because Frank Kogan is worth paying attention to, partly because of the band’s name. Generally with names you can have a guess at what you’re going to hear. The last track I’d downloaded blind had been “The Groke” by Frost Jockey – I was expecting something chilly and electronic and that is what I’d got. But Midi Maxi and Efti? It sounded like an Eastern Bloc cartoon series – could be anything!
It turned out to be Swedish Reggae – result! I have grown very fond of early 90s Euro-rap – that combination of disco, digital skank, pop know-how and deadpan naif vocals you hear on Dr. Alban and Ace Of Base records. The appeal of European pop is always part-projected: I want to believe in a version of pop uncontaminated by notions of artistry and driven by novelty. The reality is much more complex.
It strikes me that there are at least two strains in what I think of as ‘Europop’. The first is deliberately artificial, extravagant, bizarre – Aqua, Eiffel 65, the bombast of snap, the tottering kitsch of Army Of Lovers, Alcazar’s disco follies. The second is down-to-earth – Lene Nystrom singing about office sauce; dental student Dr. Alban rapping about his producer’s flat and young son; Midi Maxi And Efti and their songs which sound like beginner’s EFL exercises.
MM and E are three girls from Eritrea who came to Sweden (according to their excellent self-titled album) ‘six years ago’, which would have been 1985. They sing about friends and boyfriends and making music, sometimes about their homeland. “Bad Bad Boys”, their easiest song to find because of a soundtrack appearance, is typical – a sizeable hook and a weird vocal style, like bored playground chanting. The album is based pretty heavily on pop-reggae but each track adds something fresh to keep the hooks sharp and the interest alive – there are a couple of wonderful shimmering songs that sound like a bubblegum Orb.
There’s something childlike about the record which makes me suspicious of myself for liking it. It has that just-discovered-music feel that The Shaggs are supposed to have – except of course The Shaggs are just strange kids making an awful racket whereas Midi Maxi And Efti are backed up by a pretty slick operation, including Stakka Bo and members of the Army Of Lovers. So I like to think that what I’m hearing is an enthusiasm for pop that speaks to my own.